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Ranker’s delight: the all new CUG 2020 league table

Paul Greatrix introduces the 2020 Complete University Guide league table.
This article is more than 4 years old

Paul Greatrix is Registrar at The University of Nottingham, author and creator of Registrarism and a Contributing Editor of Wonkhe.

A bit like the Premier League the big names have been battling it out for the top places, and to avoid relegation, and there are no surprises about the results.

Yet again Cambridge wins the title and there is a little bit of jostling for the minor placings but stability is the name of the game here. So here is the CUG top 10 for 2020:

CUG 2020ProviderCUG 2019
3St Andrews(5)
4London School of Economics(3)
5Imperial College London(4)
10University College London(10)

More details of the lower placings can be found on the CUG site along with plenty of other analysis – and information on careers, fees, and many other dimensions of campus life – on the website. The main ranking comprises 10 measures as follows:

The main University League Table is based on ten measures: Entry Standards, Student Satisfaction, Research Quality, Research Intensity, Graduate Prospects, Student-Staff Ratio, Spending on Academic Services, Spending on Student Facilities, Good Honours Degrees, and Completion.

And the 70 Subject Tables are based on five measures: Entry Standards, Student Satisfaction, Research Quality, Research Intensity, and Graduate Prospects.

There are plenty of ways to sort all of the data too:

All University League Tables on can be filtered by year, region, and mission group (Cathedrals Group, GuildHE, Million+ Group, Russell Group, University Alliance, as well as unaffiliated universities). All tables can also be sorted by any of the measures that comprise them.

Full details of the methodology can also be found on the site.

The rankings do remain fairly stable as they have done for some time. Which is somewhat reassuring methodologically if not terribly exciting for the headline writers and part-time amateur rankings observers like this one.

A degree of caution

The Guide offers some sensible advice on using the results:

When using the table to compare universities always remember:


  • A league table position mainly reflects a university’s performance over a single year. However, many have built a reputation over the years, while some lower down are still carving out a niche.


  • Newer universities often demonstrate strengths in comparison to older, reputable universities. Modest institutions may have centres of specialist excellence, and even famous universities can have mediocre departments.

Close calls

  • Be aware of bunching – in some tables, the rankings are separated by a very small difference. In these areas, you shouldn’t take the ranking differences between universities too seriously.

All league tables should come with this kind of advice. In hindsight, we should perhaps have argued for inclusion in the HERA.

So, it’s very much steady as she goes for the CUG. Enjoy.

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